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New York Times features Jugnu Verma

'The Art and Ritual of Rangoli'

[caption id="attachment_48354" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Jugnu and her daughter create rangoli art at their Lexington home. New York Times photo.[/caption]

The morning the New York Times published a story on the traditional Indian holiday Diwali being observed worldwide today.

Hub readers might recognize one of its subjects: 2021 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipient Jugnu Verma (right). Verma was visited by a photographer this summer in preparation for the story, for which she was interviewed by phone. Excellent images resulting from that visit accompany Anna P. Kambhampaty's story. Access the story with this link; a subscription or login might be required. Here's an excerpt:

“The Christmas tree is to Christmas as rangoli is to Diwali,” Jugnu Verma, an artist and arts educator in Columbia, S.C., said in a recent phone interview. “It’s incomplete without it.”

While making rangoli can be celebratory, it is also a daily ritual for many women in India and throughout the diaspora — a tradition that grounds them in challenging times. Ms. Verma, 40, who has been making rangoli for three decades, said the focus required to make rangoli “helps develop meditative power.”

Kambhampaty did a great job focusing on Verma's rangoli art. Our feature on Verma for the South Carolina Arts Awards has more about Verma and why she was a worthy recipient of the Folk Heritage Award, which is presented with McKissick Museum at the University of South Carolina. (There's also a video.) BONUS CONTENT Readers, remember that the deadline to nominate worthy traditional artists like Jugnu Verma for their own Folk Heritage Award is tomorrow, Nov. 5 at 11:59 p.m. ET!

Jason Rapp

Oconee County quilter brings lifelong lessons to her art

CENTRAL, S.C.— Anna Willis' knuckles are swollen, and her fingers remain curved no matter how much she tries to straighten them. "I have had arthritis a long time," she said. "As long as I can remember."
Yet, she still works with those fingers. The artwork they produce still makes it into galleries and museums. Anna Willis is a quilter, and has been since she was a child. Her mother first taught her to sew when she was 5. Willis was a young lady, in the 1940s, when she completed her first quilt by herself. She still has it, all these years later. "It's a sunshine and shadow pattern," Willis said. "I have never been able to part with it." Two folding tables pushed together dominate her living room in her small brick home in Central. On it is a sewing machine. All around it, and underneath it, are sacks of material. Small drawers hold spools of thread of every color. One couch is stacked with folded quilts. Some of the quilts are large enough to cover a queen-size bed. Others are made for babies or for hanging on the wall. Some are decorated with beadwork and hand-sewn patchwork. All have been made by Willis. Quilting is her art. Her work is on display at The Arts Center of Clemson and is part of the Upstate Heritage Quilt Trail, a series of wooden, painted quilt squares that are mounted on public buildings, tourist sites and homes in the Upstate. The squares are a form of public art, meant to generate tourism. "This is what I do now, when I take a notion," Willis said. "As soon as I retired, I went right into quilting. I don't have anybody here. I had to find something to do." She has been a widow since the 1960s. Her only child, an adopted son, died last year. Her quilts keep her busy. She recently worked on a king-size Christmas quilt, one she meant to finish in time for the holidays, but the schedule was delayed when she came down with a cold. Some of her creations will take a couple of months to make. This king-size cover will take three months. She has taught others her art at local elementary schools, community centers and at Tri-County Technical College. Willis was raised in Seneca, near the Oconee County Training School. Then, flour sacks, salt sacks and feed sacks were used to put quilts together. Her mother had a large quilt frame that was held up with ropes at the ceiling. She would lower it in the morning and work on quilts until dinner time, Willis said. "We didn't have much," Willis said. "Mama made quilts, and I had to help her. Mama could make anything she wanted. Everything I knew about sewing, knitting and crocheting, I learned from her." That started a lifetime of working with fabric and sewing for Willis. She worked for 15 years at Gallant Belk on Seneca. But the longest span of her career was spent in a mill, sewing collars on blouses. About 23 years ago, she retired. "The doctor made me stop working because of my heart," she said. Her health is not what it once was. Those fingers will ache sometimes, and her arthritis will keep her awake all evening if her joints become too cold. But many days, Willis is still here, sitting at this table, working on her art.

Searching for South Carolina’s tradition bearers

The South Carolina Arts Commission has launched the Survey of South Carolina’s Tradition Bearers to identify those who practice traditional arts handed down from generation to generation through community-specific practices. This fourth phase of the survey will include Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Georgetown, Horry and Jasper counties. The survey is managed through the Arts Commission's Folklife and Traditional Arts Program in collaboration with the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum. M.J. Holden of Lancaster"The Folklife and Traditional Arts Program aims to support tradition bearers throughout South Carolina," said Doug Peach, program coordinator. "This survey provides vital and up-to-date information on the breadth of living traditions in our state, many of which have never been documented. This stage of the survey will be focused on coastal areas of South Carolina – a vibrant region for music, storytelling, and foodways, to name a few. "By surveying artists and learning about their work, we can better understand how to assist them with our programs, such as the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Awards, the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Initiative, and Traditional Arts grants for nonprofit organizations." Maria Arroyo has been contracted to identify tradition bearers in Beaufort, Colleton, Dorchester and Jasper counties. Arroyo has a doctorate degree in school psychology (Quito-Ecuador, South America) and is a graduate of the S.C. Arts Commission’s Institute for Community Scholars. She has presented at conferences around the state and the U.S. about the advantages of biculturalism in an ever-changing society. In addition to her daily work as a parent educator with Lexington School District One, Maria compiles traditions in El Recado newsletter from the first generation of Spanish-speaking families that have settled in the Lexington County area.

Sarah Bryan has been contracted to identify tradition bearers in Berkeley, Charleston, Georgetown and Horry counties. Bryan is a folklorist and fiddle player and a native of Myrtle Beach. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill's Curriculum in folklore (MA, 2003), she has been a fieldworker and writer for the North Carolina Folklife Institute, based in Durham, since 2005; is the editor of the Old-Time Herald, a magazine about traditional Southern string band music; and has done extensive oral history research in Myrtle Beach and Horry County for Chapin Memorial Library and the Chapin Foundation.

Teresa Justice of Rock HillOne hundred artists have been identified in 20 counties since the survey launched in October 2009. Traditions practiced by these artists include chair caning, instrument making, basket weaving and quilt making. (Download a PDF of the survey results for the first 18 counties.) This phase of the survey began in November 2013 and will be completed by June 2014.  With support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Humanities CouncilSC, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, it is expected that tradition bearer identification will have been conducted in all of S.C.’s counties by the end of 2014. Individuals or organizations who know of tradition bearers (in any S.C. county) should contact Doug Peach at PeachD@mailbox.sc.edu or (803)734-8764. (Images: Stringed instrument maker M.J. Holden of Lancaster and quilt maker Teresa Justice of Rock Hill. Both were identified in an earlier tradition bearers survey.)

Ashley Carder preserves old-time music legacy

Fiddler Ashley Carder, a 2012 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipient, was featured in an article in The State on Feb. 17: "The jam session in the back room at Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor rolls on into the night, local bluegrass veterans and relative novices alike feeding off the fiddle player with the engaging smile and impeccable playing style. “Play that waltz that sounds like taaaa-ta, ta-ta-ta-ta, ta-ta-ta-ta,” says Hershel Wise, whose 80-year-old fingers still can play the notes on his mandolin though his mind can’t recall the tune’s title. Ashley Carder considers the request for a second, then his bow takes off on the staccato notes of “The Westphalia Waltz.” The other musicians — Wise, two more fiddle players, three guitar players and a stand-up bass plucker — follow Carder’s lead even if they don’t know the tune well or at all. It’s impossible to estimate the number of fiddle tunes — from obscure old-time music to bluegrass standards — filed away in Carder’s head. He’s been stowing them away for decades as he learned from any old-time fiddle player who would show him the way. And as those old-timers have passed away, Carder felt a responsibility to preserve their legacy whether in sessions like the Friday night jams at Bill’s, in the multiple bands he plays with or in the recordings he has compiled through the years. Last year, Carder was honored with a Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award by the S.C. Arts Commission for his efforts to preserve the music of his predecessors. But he’s more of a rewards guy than an awards guy. He loves watching his mentors’ family members tear up when they hear the preserved songs or seeing novice fiddlers light up as they figure out how to play an old tune. His most recent project chronicles the career of one of his mentors — Pappy Sherrill. A legend in bluegrass/country circles dating back to the 1920s, Sherrill gained fame in South Carolina as the fiddler player in The Hired Hands." Read the complete article. Via: The State [caption id="attachment_4291" align="alignnone" width="600"]Ashely Carder 2012 Folk Heritage Awards Ashley Carder performs at the Statehouse after receiving the 2012 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award[/caption]